Sunday, 24 February 2013

Read Any Good Radio Books Lately?

I'm often asked to recommend some books about radio so here are a few favourites from my shelves:

First of all...

'Team: It's Only Radio' by John Myers

Starting off as a disco DJ trying to make the break into radio through to becoming Chief Executive of one of the UK's major radio groups - and beyond -  John's account of that journey is always interesting, at times funny, but never dull. He also gives fascinating insight into some of those multi-million Pound deals.

(Available from John's website for £10 (+ £3 postage) - all proceeds are being donated to charity).

Not Quite Altogether Now: The Pioneering Days of Radio Clyde by Tony Currie

A very interesting, and highly enjoyable, account of the early days of Radio Clyde, which was notable for being something of a success story almost from the beginning; especially as both LBC and Capital had both come close to financial disaster in their early months on-air.

Tony’s book also reminds us that the way we make radio has changed considerably since then.

'Radio 1: The Inside Scene' by Johnny Beerling

Another "I was there" book is Johnny Beerling's account of his long career at the BBC, and especially as his time as Controller of Radio 1.

On the subject of Radio 1...

Probably one of the best books ever written about radio. A frank look behind the scenes of Radio 1 during the Bannister/Dann era of major change. Simon Garfield was given unprecedented access to managers, producers and presenters, as well as sitting-in on playlist and promotions meetings. An excellent read.

'Rocking America' by Rick Sklar 

Of all the behind-the-scenes books about radio, this is undoubtedly one of the best.  As Programme Director  Rick Sklar was the genius behind WABC/New York throughout the 60s and 70s;  when the station was one of the most listened-to and most imitated on the planet!!

Which leads me nicely into...

'KHJ - Inside Boss Radio' by Ron Jacobs

If WABC New York was one of the most influential US radio stations in the 60s/70s then KHJ Los Angeles was the other, when Consultant Bill Drake and Programme Director Ron Jacobs unleashed 'Boss Radio' with a now-legendary on-air team, inding Robert W Morgan and 'The Real' Don Steele.

I've been after a copy of this for years. The hardback and paperback editions have been out-of-print for years but the book is now available as a Kindle e-book from Amazon. Hurrah!  It's a fascinating read with first-hand recollections - not only from Ron Jacobs but also from Bill Drake, the DJs and many of the other people who helped turn Los Angeles into 'Boss Angeles' -  as well as photos, promotional material and internal memos. Even Ron's letter of resignation to [station owners] RKO is there.

This is an excellent practical, how-to guide to producing and presenting radio to a professional standard. Packed with day-to-day advice that captures the essence and buzz of live broadcasting; from preparing your show before it goes out, last minute changes to running orders, deciding what to drop in over a track, how to sell a feature or promote a programme, setting up competitions, thinking fast in a phone in- this book will help you do all that and more. It covers network and commercial, music and talk radio skills. It will particularly suit broadcasters at student, hospital and community stations as well as those at local commercial and BBC stations.

Written by by a former head of BBC Local Radio Training, this is is a good introduction to the basics of radio production. However, I feel it's somewhat “thin” on contemporary music programming/formatting, computerised music scheduling etc., and, despite several revisions over the years, its 1978 BBC local radio origins are still very much in evidence.

Hang The DJ by Paul Hollins and Paul Chantler

A 'must-have' guide to English law for any broadcaster.  Read my review here.

'Creating Powerful Radio: Getting, Keeping & Growing Audiences' by Valerie Geller
'Beyond Powerful Radio' by Valerie Geller

Valerie Geller has been working with many leading radio stations around the world, helping them not only to understand radio's challenges in the digital age but also to face them head-on and succeed. These two books contain fresh thinking on how we do radio in the 21st century.

‘This Business Of Radio Programming’ by Claude and Barbara Hall. Reckoned by some to be the best radio book ever written this ia a true classic dealing with  US radio in the 1960s/70s. Originally published in 1977, it was hard-to-find but has since been re-issued (but not updated) and is also available via Dan O’Day’s website -

And finally... seeing as this is my blog I might as well give a brief mention to my own book - Programming Points - The Best of 'The Radio Magazine' Columns (2003-2010)

(Note: I use Amazon affiliate links in my blog. I have not done so with John Myers' book because by buying it from his own website all proceeds are going to charity)

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